Wimbledon’s Polka Theatre is turning 40 and is asking the public to help raise £1 million for their redesigned space opening in 2020.
The UK’s first children’s theatre will close its doors for a massive redevelopment to make it more inclusive.
The new space, designed by architect Tim Foster, will include restructured indoor and outdoor play areas and an extended Adventure Theatre.
Polka’s artistic director, Peter Glanville, said: “We wanted to create a place that can be a Wonderland for the future. A new, re-imagined Polka that can be an incredible place for future generations.”
The new Polka will contain features specifically designed to engage children with different abilities such as autism, with a multi-sensory garden and a ‘creative learning space’ with interactive video projections.
Mr Glanville said: “Polka is committed to making sure absolutely every child can experience Polka to the fullest. In fact, Polka was the first theatre to offer autism-friendly performances. We’ve been really a pioneering company in terms of inclusivity.”
COMMITTED: Artistic director Peter Glanville says the company has been pioneering for inclusive theatre.
The re-imagined theatre, scheduled to open in summer 2020, will offer greater accessibility and wheelchair access to the main stage.
Although the theatre will be dark during the renovation, the Polka company will remain busy, with a crammed programme including an interactive exhibition in Morden Hall Park and a school-touring production named Property of Polka.
The plans to renovate the theatre have been in discussion since 2012, but the £7.5million cost has been an ongoing obstacle.
The theatre has raised a total of £6.5 million, thanks to various private donors, sponsors and sizeable pledges from the Arts’ Council and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s ‘Good Growth Fund.’
Polka also held a fundraising gala at New Wimbledon Theatre last year, with a charity auction offering prizes such as having a child named in David Walliam’s new book and Michael Rosen giving a poetry reading to the winner’s school.
However, Polka still needs to raise £1 million and the theatre is turning to the public for support.
People wanting to support the theatre’s fundraising campaign can do so via the theatre’s website.
Mr Glanville explained: “People can contribute £5 towards an aromatic plant or for £5,000 they can contribute towards a major water-play installation. We’ve really tried to make it as broad as possible for people who want to support us”
Polka’s campaign is being backed by many of its celebrity patrons, including comedian Omid Djalili who said: “I’m proud to be a patron and supporter of the professional theatre productions that Polka create for nought-12-year-olds. I am delighted that Polka is getting a new building – complete with a state-of-the-art adventure theatre for its 40 birthday (way better than the pair of socks I got from my sister when I turned 40).
“This will ensure that younger audiences have the opportunity to experience new and innovative work created especially for them. They still need a great deal of funds (£1m in fact) so when Polka comes knocking, I hope people give generously as this is such an important force for good in the world.”
Mr Glanville said: “It’s so important that we launch this campaign and get the public support behind us. More and more, particularly in London, it’s difficult to have those special spaces and places for children and families to feel they can run around in or have a quiet reading corner. That’s key to Polka, it’s much more than just a theatre.”